Category Archives: Fabulous Females

Dracula’s Wife

 

Ilona Szilágyi Ilona Szilagyi, the cousin of Hungarian king Mathias Corvinus, grew up amid the luxury of court life in Buda. One of three daughters born to  Hungarian noble Michael Szilagyi  and Margit Bathory in 1446, IIona was a privileged young woman.

During an age when marriages were negotiated political contracts, Dracula—held as a political detainee by the Hungarian king— knew his freedom came only when the young king needed his skills to halt the Turkish army.

Little is known about Vlad Dracula’s ten years as a supposed ‘prisoner’ of the Hungarian King other than he wed Ilona and they lived in Pest.

History records nothing of Ilona’s life or death—even the location of her grave is a mystery  ( like Dracula’s ). We do know Ilona’s father and Vlad were good friends and united in their desire to stop the Turks. Dracula was an excellent military strategist, fierce warlord, and crusading prince. Although his tactics were widely debated and much maligned ( German flyers called him a Bloodthirsty  Berserker ) throughout Christendom, Ilona was probably well-acquainted with his bad-boy reputation.

Vlad III

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THE IMPALER’S WIFE
 The subject of my next historical fiction. 
Photos  collected while researching are available on my Pinterest page.
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A few Vlad facts:
  • he lived from 1431–1476
  • he was Prince of Wallachia, a region of Romania that’s north of the Danube river and just south of the Carpathian mountains
  • his dad, Vlad Dracul, belonged to the Order of Dragons, which was established to safeguard Christianity in eastern Europe ( a good thing)
  • Vlad III was known for his cruelty ( a bad thing) but took up the mantel of Order of the Dragon mandate.
  • reportedly—accurate statistics were sketchy back then—he was responsible for over 10,000 deaths.
  • his brother Radu ( a pet of the Sultan) slid into power after Dracula was ousted from Wallachia the 2nd time.
  • Vlad III spent most of his life fighting the encroachment of the Ottoman Empire

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image17608863

Ilona and Vlad lived the royal life in a grand mansion in Pest ( across the Danube from Buda). They were married for ten years, and she bore him two sons.

The eldest is named after his father. 

In 1476, Vlad Dracula, only 45-yrs oldwas killed in battle.

Ilona—an ambitious woman by all accounts—fled to Buda with her children where she became a distinguished refugee at court. Her eldest, Vlad IV was the official pretender to the Wallachian throne.

Writing a novel like this requires extensive research! If you have a question, I’ll do my best to answer it.

If you are interested in receiving  notification concerning the novel’s publication, leave a comment with name and email. Your email will not be shared and will remain private. You will receive no emails other than the novel’s release date.

A quick summary.

ILONA SZILÁGYI, the cousin of Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus, grows up amid the luxury of court life and under the tutelage of a vigilant aunt. During her cousin’s coronation, Ilona meets the twice-deposed Prince of Wallachia, Vlad Dracula, and is immediately drawn to him.

A prized political prisoner held in the Visegrad castle, Dracula knows his freedom comes only if the young monarch needs a fierce warrior to halt the Ottoman encroachment. Marrying into the king’s family is Dracula’s best chance if he hopes to solidify an alliance and secure his future. And either of Matthias’ two cousins will do, thus inciting the rivalry between Ilona and her sister Margit.

After discovering the truth about her sadistic husband, Ilona is both horrified and yet stirred by his deeds.

Determined to become Dracula’s confidante and beloved, the ambitious Ilona supports his pursuits to regain his Romanian titles even as she offers comfort to the innocent victims he wronged. When Ilona realizes her husband’s sadistic proclivities extend to the bedroom she must decide her future as either an unwilling participant or enthusiastic lover. Taught that entrance to the kingdom of heaven rests on good deeds and piety, Ilona struggles as the husband she loves corrupts her soul.

At a time when unholy leaders fight holy wars, Ilona faces battles where weapons are whispered lies and dangerous secrets. A vengeful sister, spying servants, and tempering the ignoble reputation of her husband compel Ilona to forsake virtue for security.

THE IMPALER’S WIFE is a tale of an ambitious woman bent on thriving in a world of sanctified brutality and sinful sensuality. It is a love story where the cost of sacrifice and the curse of love became a legend.

Novel update: With agent!

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Pancho Barnes

PanchoIt’s Fab Female Friday! This week: Florence Lowe Barnes, aka Pancho. Maybe you’ve heard about this fearless gal!

Aviatrix. Record breaker. Rancher. Stunt Flyer. Mom. Hollywood elbow-rubber. High-flyer.

Pancho was born in Pasadena, California in 1901 and was the granddaughter to the man who pioneered American Aviation with the Union Army Balloon corps.

Flash forward several decades>>>

One day as Pancho took her cousin to his flying lessons, she realized she too wanted to soar in the big blue. A persuasive woman, she convinced her cousin’s instructor to begin teaching her that very day.

A quick learner and gutsy gal, she continued flying even after a crash, and in 1930—flying 196.10 mph—she broke Amelia Earhart’s speed record!

(How come I never read about her in history books?)

Not one to sit around resting on her laurels, she became a stunt pilot in Hollywood  and made plenty of Tinseltown connections.

desertThe Depression, however, resulted in a loss of most of her money. She scraped enough together to buy 180 acres of desert property out in in the boonies of the Mojave desert ( tumbleweeds, cactus, dirt, lizards—think Wiley Coyote)  Her closest neighbor? March Air Force Base.

There she rubbed elbows and threw parties for people like Chuck Yeager, General Jimmy Doolittle, Buzz Aldrin, and the Hollywood A-list crowd.

After a protracted legal battle with the government (never fun) over the price of her land and a suspicious fire, she moved to Cantril.

Unable to stay away from the life she loved, Pancho became a regular visitor at Edwards AFB, soon enjoying the company of her ol’ fly buddies.

Pancho died in 1975, never having made it to her keynote speech at the local Aero Museum reunion event.

This amazing woman is the subject of several books, movies, and documentaries. Courageous. Bodacious. Married 4 times! A force to be reckoned with.

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Fab Female Friday: Marie Laveau

220px-MarieLaveau_(Frank_Schneider)Mystery, mayhem, and magic surrounds this fab female.

Born in Haiti in 1794, this beautiful and multi-talented woman took New Orleans by storm. Voodoo storm! Other accounts claim  she was born in the French Quarter to a white farmer and African American woman.

Marie went from hairdresser and cook to voodoo queen. Talk about diversification!

Violent uprisings in Haiti prompted the smart gal to seek a safer home. She married another Haitian refugee and had 15–that’s right–15 children. Other accounts say her husband died ( mysteriously,of course), and that those 15 kiddies were Christopher Glapion’s, a man she lived with for many years.

No stay-at-home mom, Marie got a job at the city jail where she learned to be an excellent listener. Secrets, shady dealings, and all things scandalous of the rich elite was her ticket to success and a new career.

Soon, Maria’s love potions, psychic readings, spiritual guidance, and all manner of herbal remedies became the talk of the town. Savvy business woman that she was, promised results were based on ability to pay. But she still charged a pretty penny–$10.00 if you were poor–and that was back then!

Although there were reportedly over 300 voodoo priests and priestesses practicing in New Orleans at the time, only Maria had earned the title of Boss woman.

She was known for putting on frightening and gory voodoo shows. Nasty dancing with  with a scary-long snake named Zombi and beheading roosters drew very large crowds.The money poured in.

She died a wealthy and powerful woman in 1881 at the ripe old age of 89. An impressive life for a woman living during those times. She earned power, money, and prestige through her wits and determination.

Her daughter, Marie Laveau the 2nd continued in the family biz.

 Voodoo: The word comes from the West African vodun, which means “spirit.” The religion began in Haiti and is a combo of many different African beliefs, which are often mixed with Catholic-like practices and rituals.
The religion centers around the belief that spirits have power and influence over the natural world. Therefore, a connection with the spiritual world is needed to make a physical, spiritual, or emotional change.
Several types of powerful ancestral spirits can be summoned:
rada: nice spirits associated with white magic
petro: mean spirits associated with black magic.

 

Marie Laveau: How would you like a Voodoo Queen for a mom? 

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Fab Female Friday:Boudicca

"Boadicea Haranguing the Britons" by John Opie

“Boadicea Haranguing the Britons” by John Opie

Bodacious Boudicca was the queen of the Icini tribe in Briton (the area is called Norfolk now) in AD 60.

After her husband, King Prasutagus died, Roman publicani (crooked tax collectors) and loan sharks infested the land demanding MONEY $$. No frail flower, Boudicca knew she was being played and manipulated by Roman thugs so she voiced her objections—loudly!

The Roman response? Boudicca was flogged (whipped)  and her daughters publicly raped and beaten.

Rightly incensed at this atrocity, the red-head Boudicci gathered her warlike people and led them in a revolt against the Romans where she devastated the 9th Roman legion. How did they do this? The stealthy Celts engaged in guerrilla style warfare, moving quickly through the dense forests and taking the slow-moving Romans by surprise.

Victorious— but still pissed off—she advanced on London, a hub for Roman trade.B1

The numbers are suspect but Boudicci’s army reportedly slew over 70,000 Roman citizens who were living in London.

The tide soon turned and the growing revolt against the Roman interlopers ended in tragedy when the over-confident, ill-armed Celts could not withstand the highly-trained, well-equipped Roman forces. The massacre was  vicious— men, woman, and children–no one escaped the carnage.

Reports differ over the death of this warrior woman. Some say  Boudicci committed royal suicide by poison ( the rage at the time). Others contend she became sick and died.

Boudicca: Bold. Powerful. Determined. Courageous. Fierce.
Legendary Queen and Fearless Leader.

To learn more about this Fab Female check out the University of North Carolina’s website at http://www.unc.edu/celtic/catalogue/boudica/catalog.html

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Mary of Nazareth

It’s  Fab Female Friday and with only several days left before Christmas, I had no choice but to write about Mary, Mother of God. Icon. Saint. Legendary Jewish mother.

Naturally, everyone knows about the biblical Mary. The woman is an icon of epic proportions. Images of her are ubiquitous, and yet Anglican, eastern Orthodox, Islamic (yes), Lutheran, Protestant, and Catholic all hold different views about her.

With that in mind, remember this as I offer a few pieces of information about the Virgin Mother. Dogma and opinions vary!

WARNING: The following is non-academic.

 For scholarly information check out the University of Dayton’s The Mary Page, which has amassed the world’s largest collection of printed material about Mary
or The New Advent Organization, Catholic Encyclopedia.

And for all you Catholics out there, don’t forget, the Pope Tweets. His handle is: @Pontifex

A few non-academic Mary facts:

  • Mary is known by many names. Here are a few: In Hebrew she is Miriam; in Arabic, Maryam. She also goes by Saint Mary, Mother Mary, Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Bearer of God, Mother of the Church, and Our Lady.
  • She was born in the late 1st century BC and died sometime in the 1st centaury AD
  • She is identified in both the Qur’an and New Testament
  • Mary was engaged ( betrothed)  to Joseph at 12 years old ( this was typical)
  • Both Mary and Joseph were from the House of David and  from the Tribe of Judah. The genealogical aspect is fascinating.
  • The Angel Gabriel gives her the prophetic news during her betrothal.
  • Joseph is informed by an angel several months later—important, since there is no way he would have married a non-virgin.
  • Mary and Joseph complete wedding rites.
  • Elizabeth greets Mary as “the mother of my Lord.”
  • By order of Roman Emperor Augustus (Octavious- Julius Caesar’s adopted son), Joseph had to return to his home town of Bethlehem to be taxed (the Romans were tax-happy—but that’s another story).
  • Mary gave birth to Jesus at 13 yrs old and canonical gospels attest to her virginity.
  • Per Jewish law, Jesus is circumcised 8 days later.
  • A month or so later, Jesus is presented to the temple. Mary makes the traditional burnt offering for her sins and is thereby “cleansed.”
  • Months later, Wise men pay homage with their symbolic gifts The word Magi describes the Zoroastrian priests who used astrology. Note: Our word magic comes from Magi.
  • Gold is a symbol of royalty, kingship, or virtue.
  • Frankincense, an incense, is the symbol for a deity, or prayer.
  • Myrrh, an oil used to embalm, was a symbol of death, or suffering
  • The gospel of Luke mentions Mary the most—12 times. Matthew refers to her 6 times. John, twice; Mark, only once.
  • Mary is mentioned when 12 yr old Jesus stays to teach in the Jerusalem temple.
  • Mary watches her son turn water into wine.
  • She was believed to be present at her son’s crucifixion ( a favorite Roman death sentence).
  • Mary disappears  from scripture after she is mentioned  attending a meeting with the 11 apostles
  • Some  religions believe her physical body ascended to heaven after she died—her grave was found empty
  • Nobody knows exactly when she died: There are no records. If you do the math, Mary would have been 46 yrs old at the time of her son’s crucifixion. This was well past the average life expectancy of the time.

My humblest apologies if I got some information wrong.

There is a wealth of information about Mary of Nazareth. If you’re a reader of Dan Brown, you might wonder if, in fact, the Vatican secret treasure vault holds more information about this mysterious figure. Who knows?

 

Cheng I Sao

cheng I saoThis fab female was famous for her booty.

Cheng I Sao, aka Zheng Yi Sao—which means Cheng’s wife—was more successful than any of the Beards—you know, Blackbeard or Blue Beard.

Her life was the stuff of romance novels! A prostitute in Canton, China, the missy caught the eye of a handsome Chinese pirate captain who decided she would be the perfect wife. Little did he know he had yoked himself to one enterprising hottie!

During the first six years of their wedded pirating bliss, she learned the piracy ropes as they looted the South China Seas together—so romantic.

Instead of shivering her timbers when her pirate captain went to Davy Jones’ locker—pirate talk for ‘he met his demise in the ocean’—she hooked up with hubby’s 2nd in command and promptly expanded the booty business.

Through her business acumen, military strategy, and leadership skills, Zheng Yi Sao took piracy to a new level by diversifying. Not content with just pillaging and looting, the ambitious Buccaneeress  added extortion, spying, kidnapping, and “protection” services.

Soon she had over 40,000 pirates working for her and commanded 400 hundred vessels! She ruled the seas!

In 1810, amnesty was offered to pirates and, being the savvy woman she was, Zheng Yi Sao decided enough was enough, quit the pirate business and opened a gambling establishment with the loot.

Zheng Yi Sao was one bodacious babe with a bounty of booty.

Writing a novel like this requires extensive research. I was lucky to get my hands on an out-of-print book by the foremost authority. If you have questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

Zheng Yi Sao is the subject of my third historical fiction. If interested in receiving notification about the novel’s publication, leave a comment with name and email. Your email will not be shared and will remain private. You will receive no emails other than the novel’s release date.

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Fab Female Friday: Nicole-Barbe Clicquot

A “Bubbly” Female that Nicole!

Next time you lift a glass of the bubbly in celebration thank Nicole-Barbe Clicquot.
Yep—that Clicquot.
After wine-maker hubby’s untimely demise, the 20 year widow and new mom took over the biz., ultimately producing the prestige beverage.

Champagne had humble beginnings, bearing little resemblance to the lovely effervescent bubbly sold today. Instead, it was a rather slushy mixture of grapes and sugar—hardly hoitie toitie!

 Nicole, like most fab females, was never satisfied with status quo, so she tried new methods for aging the wine. After many trials and errors (and champagne drinking   testing), this vixenous vintner devised the perfect way to make that classy, translucent beverage enjoyed by many fruit-of-the vine connoisseurs!  Magnifique!

All this happened during the reign of Napoleon, who—of course—ordered it for wife Josephine by the caseload.

An ambitious over-achiever (is that redundant?) Nicole also created  pink champagne!
Très  chic!
Not one to sit on her grapes, Nicole marketed her bubbly to all the right people—Royalty. Russian, English, and other European monarchies were soon slurping the fizzy drink up! And viola—fab female Denise became so wealthy she retired at 43 yrs of age, living the sparkling life at her château until her death at age 89.

So, if you’re over 21 hoist a flute of Veuve Clicquot and thank a fab female for making it possible!

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Fab Female Friday: Julia Domna

Julia Domna: Wife. Mother. Philosopher. Political mover & shaker.

The astrologer’s prediction proved correct!

Married in her teens to a 40-something widower Roman commander named Septimus Severus—soon to become the first African Roman emperor—Julia & Septimus became a formidable “power couple.” Septimus knew Julia was the one for him when  an astrologer predicted the she would one day be queen.

All accounts say their marriage—despite the age differences–was happy and loving.

Julia, daughter of a high priest from Syria, was extremely intelligent, courageous and didn’t   take s*** from anyone. She quickly learned the art of politics, and was soon involved in all sorts of  intrigues, strategies, and political machinations. She was also an avid reader and loved to talk philosophy.

 

During those times, women were expected to stay home and wait for their emperor husbands while they fought wars for territorial domination–but not Julia! No way! She went with her hubby–his confidant and steadfast companion. Later on, when he did leave her  home on his campaigns,  he left Julia in charge, knowing she would manage and administer the wily affairs of state with all the smoothness of a  consummate politico.

She bore two sons—who didn’t much like each other, especially when it came time to decide who would take Dad’s place as Emperor of Rome.

In an attempt to reconcile her feuding adult sons, she begged for a meeting—minus their armed guards. The youngest son was murdered in her arms—almost certainly by hit men hired by the jealous older son.

Horrible, yes? Roman politics was ever so much nastier than politics today (well, on second thought…)Try as she might, this powerful mom could not persuade her eldest son to be a better Emperor (a petty, mean-tempered, wacko ruler), although she did her best to keep the Severo reign going.

When her Emperor son was murdered, the new Emperor exiled the still politically connected Julia. Did she go? Or no. The now frail and cancer-plagued Julia, stayed put in her home and starved herself to death. She was 47 years old.

Julia Domna: smooth operator, political  pundit, philosophical activist, and  patron of the arts!

 

 

 

A profession to kill for

flowerProfessional Poisoner!! Can you believe it? Professional poisoner was a career option for women back in ancient Rome. Evidently, many people required the services of a skilled toxic-ologist.  

During Nero’s reign (he was blamed for burning Rome), Locasta was the woman to summon if you needed a rival, nasty husband,ex- lover, or wealthy relative to die.

In ancient times, if a poisoner completed the job discreetly, she was put on retainer by  local royalty. Note: A poisoner was considered first-rate if they actually killed the person, not just made them  sick.

Locusta was an accomplished pro—if the mushrooms didn’t work—the  ol’ poisoned feather did! Her coup de grâce came when she murdered Nero’s stepbrother during an elegant dinner party—she even fooled the official food-tester.

A savvy business woman, Locusta understood the benefits of diversification—she opened up the first school for poisoners (and you thought women didn’t have any career options back then—sheesh).

After Nero committed suicide and the next emperor donned the laurel crown, the femme fatale fell into disfavor, and was believed executed along with other notorious scoundrels belonging to Nero’s posse.

Luscious Locusta: First mass murderer and pretty potent poisoner—her ads claim she killed over 10,000 people!

OK—so maybe Locusta wasn’t really fabulous—but she certainly was a cheeky chick!

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THE EMPEROR’S ASSASSIN
The subject of my next historical fiction
Photos collected while researching are available on my Pinterest page.
3rd draft sneak peek
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If you are interested in receiving a notification concerning the novel’s publication, please your name and email in the comment section. Your email will not be shared and will remain private.You will receive no emails other than the novel’s release date.

Opening paragraph:

Letter written during Imperial Roman Empire: 64 AD

My Dearest,

Monster. Enchantress. Executioner. These are the names I have been given. All false. Do not believe the lies.

I was merely a woman with few choices, and one must often do the unthinkable to survive. Women’s options are limited in this world of men with their carnal and corrupt desires.

Such cruel realities did not always taint my life.

Long ago, unfettered by responsibility, I enjoyed the indulged childhood of the elite. Playing in terraced gardens, splashing in marble fountains, riding ponies, reading Ovid and Cicero, my thoughts fixed only on tomorrow’s amusements.

This pampered life ended when I was introduced to my betrothed, a man of wealth and position. Three years later, I found love with another. For a young woman of esteemed birthright he was most unsuitable.

A year later, a family complication resulted in my leaving our tranquil countryside to travel into the Den of Hungry Lions.

Rome.

In this city of greed, politics, lust, and power the gods cursed me with an infamous occupation.

Murder by poison.

My herbal potions hastened corrupt politicians, vengeful brothers, wicked sisters, ailing elders, faithless wives, and abusive husbands to their funeral pyres.

And lovers. Quite a few lovers. Lovers, apparently, are expendable vanities for the wealthy.

Most were evil incarnate. Cold-blooded senators plotting against the Empire. Heartless miscreants impatient to benefit from their spouse’s death. Depraved lovers extracting justice for a fleshly wrong.

The others did not deserve such an early end. I mourned their deaths and my burnt offerings at the temples were feeble attempts to assuage my guilt.

I was not present during every untimely death, but oftentimes I was commanded to confirm their demise. A few perished in rapturous delight as their life force ebbed away. Others melted away in a daze of dreams.

Some died while gasping for air, others expelling liquid excrement. Their vomit and convulsions remain a horrid memory. Their anguished faces continue to haunt my dreams, and their tormented cries for help are forever a lance upon my heart.

My victims’ deaths came at the capricious command of a ruthless emperor. A sadistic, suspicious, jealous emperor.

Nero. My guardian, erstwhile lover, and patron.

Novel update: With agent.

Fab Female Friday: Ninkasi

sumerWe know we’re fabulous, right ladies? How fab are we? Did you know women were the first beer-makers!

Thank us later, men!

4000 years ago in ancient Sumer, women brewed and sold barley beer. So healthy and nutritious!  Good for the whole family!

One fiscally-minded, ambitious female merchant expanded her business from beer-brewing bar-owner to Queen of Sumer! (details are sketchy about how she pulled that off—check stone tablets for more info)

Talk about climbing the ladder of success!

sumer 2Those  beer-lovin’ Sumerians even had a goddess of beer. Ninkasi. The loose translation is “the lady who fills the mouth.” Goddess Ninkasi adored beer and one follower of Inanna—goddess of sex and war—even wrote a lovely devotional poem to Ninkasi: Hymn to Ninkasi.

So ladies, tell your man it was a woman who first made this revered and celebrated nectar of the goddess!

nectar of the goddess

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